<!-- IMAGE -->
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis has approved grants worth $2.4 billion to fight the diseases during the next two years. The amount represents a slight decrease in funding levels, though the three killer diseases show little sign of abatement.
The $2.4 billion figure approved by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis is $350 million less than last year's amount, which was set before the full effects of the world economic slump were known.
Fund Executive Director Michel Kazatchkine warned in a news release even this reduced funding level may not be sustainable unless wealthy countries and other donors increase their commitments. The amount was set during a Fund board meeting in Addis Ababa.
The U.S. Global AIDS coordinator, Ambassador Eric Goosby attended the Addis Ababa meeting. He says among the hardest-to-reach vulnerable groups are those engaging in behaviors that in some countries are illegal or socially unacceptable, such as homosexuals.
"These difficult to reach populations frequently go underground and remain not visible to the medical delivery system," said Goosby. "So we are still seeing people coming into care very late because they are not getting tested early. They are coming in when they are symptomatic, which is usually after a decade of infection. And presenting with that actually life-threatening infection to the hospital, usually in an extreme state."
Goosby also said while Ethiopia's HIV infection rate is worrisome, it is far lower than in the AIDS ravaged countries of southern Africa.
"Looking at the 23 million people in sub-Saharan Africa who are infected, Ethiopia estimates are, makes up about one million of those," added Goosby. "So it is not the worst impacted country in sub-Saharan Africa by a long shot."
Goosby said infection rates in South Africa and Botswana remain significantly higher. Nevertheless, he says Ethiopia is among the countries where AIDS is spreading from several different sources.
"There are many epidemics in the population. The one that dominates in Ethiopia is heterosexual transmission, multiple partners," he said. "And we frequently find out there is HIV in a couple or social group by the woman becoming pregnant and going to her first prenatal visit and getting tested for HIV and showing that she is HIV positive. You then go back to look at her partner and her partner admitting to having other partners, and you see a group of HIV positivity where really people did not necessarily perceive themselves as being at high risk"
During its meeting the Fund Executive Board also elected Ethiopia's Health Minister Tedros Adhanom as chairman for the coming year.
The Fund has provided more than $18 billion to the fight against the three killer diseases since it was founded by the G8 group of wealthy countries in 2002. The United States is the largest donor, providing more than a quarter of the Fund's resources.
Ambassador Goosby also administers the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which provided Ethiopia an additional $350 million in AIDS prevention and treatment funding during the last fiscal year.